Home / Front Page/ Strong political will key to reform success: Harsha

Strong political will key to reform success: Harsha

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 25 February 2019 01:41



  • Govt. expense for public sector salaries and pension for 2019 Rs.1 trillion
  • Suggests fast tracking National Pension Scheme to cover all workers
  • Points if SL to become a modern and competitive economy students need to have required skills on STEM

By Charumini de silva

In a hard-hitting critique of dragging labour reforms and burgeoning public sector wages, Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Non-Cabinet Minister Dr.Harsha de Silva warned Sri Lanka is sitting on a time bomb of public sector pensions, insisting that strong political will to reform was the only way to defuse it.

Addressing the public seminar titled ‘Making the Employment Laws Conducive for Investments in Sri Lanka’ as the Chief Guest de Silva said the Government has to pay Rs.1 trillion of Rs.1.5 trillion recurrent expenditure next year as public sector salaries and pensions. 

“We are going in the wrong direction. Compare these staggering expenses we have to bear for the public sector salaries and pension compared to the Rs.2.1 trillion debt we have to pay next year. However much we try to reform, there is no political will to reform,” he told the seminar organised by National Human Resources Development Council (NHRDC) together with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka, the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICC) and the Daily Financial Times.

Noting that the average replacement rate globally was around 60%, de Silva said the rate in Sri Lanka was as high as 90%. “In most other countries people contribute towards this pension in the public sector, but in Sri Lanka we contribute nothing. We are sitting on a time bomb and it will soon explode. We cannot continue to be irresponsible this way,” he stressed.

He also said only 10% of the working population is covered by a State pension suggesting that it was crucial to expedite the introduction of a National Pension Scheme to cover all private sector workers including the informal sector workers which is huge in the Sri Lankan economy.

“We have EFP and ETF, but that is also lump sum. It is not that difficult it into an annuity structure — it can be done. People must be brought into these systems in good faith,” he expressed.

Dr. de Silva emphasised that farmer pension and fishermen pension are all political gimmicks and they have all faltered and no longer exists.

“National interest is a good political platform, but we need to be realistic about it and think how we can shift from simple products which are customer-driven to complex products which are producer-driven. You work, you receive a pay and then you must receive a pension of some sort to live,” he said.

The Minister also highlighted the need to ensure there is a way in which we can look after our elderly population.

“Around 20% of our people are going to be over 60 years of age within 10 years and almost 30% of our people are going to be over the age of 60 years by 2050. In this context, who is going to create wealth to look after our parents?” he asked.  

He also noted it was unrealistic to be a producer-driven, complex product manufacturer with majority of the students wants to pursue easy subjects such as Buddhist Civilisation, Sinhala, Dance, Media and Political Science.

“Everybody wants to pass exams so, they chose very easy subjects and when graduated they demand the Government to give them jobs. We cannot afford all these people. We want to produce complex products and they must be producer driven. To do that we need skills to compete with other countries. However, the skills we require at Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is not what we are getting,” de Silva pointed out.

At the seminar NHRDC Chairman Dinesh Weerakkody presented proposals to Dr.de silva and Skills Development and Vocational Training Deputy Minister Karunarathna Paranawithana on how to manage the import of labour.

In this complicated labour environment De silva urged the NHRDC and other stakeholders to distil them during the discussions and be realistic without getting stuck to papers and forums to bring in good policies.

“There are so many foreign workers in this country, where most of them are from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and China. Whether it is right or wrong foreign workers are here. I think it was timely by the NHRDC to start working on regulations, so that instead of free-for-all and problems later on, we have some regulatory framework and laws to control the inflow of foreign people,” he said.

Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Politics and governance in need of radical change

Monday, 26 August 2019

 The very concept of an institutionalised political party and fans who blindly support it (under any circumstance) – raises serious questions about human intelligence. Human intelligence has powered great pursuits such as Artificial Intelligence a

Go digital now

Monday, 26 August 2019

It’s a no brainer. An agency head I know recently said to me: “The jury is still out on the impact of digital advertising on client business in Sri Lanka.” I said: “What makes you say that.” He was clear. He said: “No numbers to support i

No bourgeoisie, no democracy

Monday, 26 August 2019

In the dark, forbiddingly bleak topography of our dysfunctional democracy, the emergence of the National People Power (NPP) coalition is a refreshingly propitious development. The centre-left intelligentsia could not resist comparing it to the mass

STG who became SDG of the Central Bank

Monday, 26 August 2019

A hard taskmaster as Director of Economic Research When Dr. S.T.G. Fernando, fondly known as STG, was appointed as Director of Economic Research of the Central Bank in 1979, his fame – or perhaps, notoriety – as a hard taskmaster had travelled to

Columnists More

Special Report